It’s Tic-O Tuesday! Today I had the pleasure of Zooming with Jessica Smith, who many of you know from her Jars of Joy video series on Facebook. With her beautiful long hair and ray of sunshine personality, you might think she’s just another author with a story to tell. But then a little squeak comes out that reminds you: Oh, yeah, she also has Tourette’s! And she’s dang proud of it, too!
Tic Acceptance All the Way
Jessica’s tics don’t bother her. In fact, as she talks about in her first book Awkwardly Strong: From Insecure to Inspirational, she is in full acceptance of who she is regardless of some occasional squeaks and body movements.
“My tics are hilarious,” she gushes. She’s even named them “Paula” who, being the sassy ticker and diva that she is, also takes credit for having written the books (hence the name Paula Jean Ferri on the cover.)
Jessica’s Tic History
Jessica wasn’t diagnosed with tics at an early age like most people. “I’m an outlier,” she says. “I not only was a woman with Tourette’s – with 75% of cases being men – but I also didn’t start ticking until age 17. You might say I grew into my tics instead of out of them!”
Jessica now lives in Mill Creek, UT, but she grew up in Logandale, Nevada. Her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses (as described in her second book Tragically Strong: Navigating the Change When Life Turns You Upside Down).
But her attitude, along with her faith, kept her moving toward the positive. Her sense of humor shone through the interview and, once again, it was a big reminder to me – as the parent of a ticker – that the right attitude is everything.
Her First Tics at 17
“My first tic came out like a strong squeak – as if I was stepping on one of those dog chew toys,” she said. “Ironically, it was at the library!” She laughed. “I started doing it two times in a row… then three times in a row. My co-workers started to count them for me!”
Her tics didn’t stop there. They followed her to university where she was studying music with the full intent of being a choir teacher. “My tics starting mimicking the notes on the scales,” she chuckled. “Because of my Echolalia (mirroring of different sounds around me) I would also mimic the time clock at work. Like a cough or a sneeze, I just couldn’t stop it.”
Her Greatest Tic Challenge
She went away on a mission for two years and came back with the intention of getting a degree in social work. Unfortunately, the professors weren’t too encouraging of her abilities to work with others one-on-one due to her “distracting” noises. She was so disenchanted by her teachers’ reactions that she began failing her classes – a very new phenomenon for this straight A student.
She might have dropped out had a psychologist not insisted she come in for counseling. He took one look at her, knew she had Tourette’s, and recommend she continue pursuing a degree more suited for her needs. (She ended up with a degree in International Culture Studies with an emphasis in Communications!)
Work with What You Got
I always tell parents I work with that it’s not what happens to us (ex: an unexpected Tourette diagnosis) but how we adapt to it that makes all the difference. Life changes! If we can embrace it for what it is – a gift to do things differently – life can take on beautiful meaning and purpose! In Jessica’s case, she wrote a thesis paper on Tourette’s and How it Affects Communication. It got such praise that she then turned that into her first book, Tragically Strong.
Jessica’s family was as surprised as she was with her tics, and while they were never outright mean to her, it took a while for them to get used to. “My father’s job as a mechanic was to listen to squeaking parts under the hood,” she said. “So you can imagine driving with me how that must have thrown him for a loop!” she laughs. Her younger brother would sometimes ask her to “close her mouth” so the noise wouldn’t escape. To that, Jessica simply responded the way many a good big sister does. “Um…. NO.”
Diagnosis at 24 and Treatment
It wasn’t until age 24 that Jessica was officially diagnosed with Tourette’s. And listen up, parents: this is what she did to cure the tics…. Are you ready?….
“They are what they are!” Jessica said proudly. “I can’t tell you how many cool people I’ve me from them… and all the stories I have.” Her tics never kept her from dating. And Paula (her tics) is particularly delightful at parties. At one point she shrieked fairly loudly and unexpectedly. A man came running into the room, flirting, “Is that your mating call? ‘Cause I like it!” (He felt terrible when he discovered later that she had T.S., but Jessica assured him it was “No big deal.”)
A Great Attitude and Sense of Humor is Everything
It’s Jessica’s attitude toward tics that has made all the difference in her life. She is a writer first, not someone with tics. “I encourage all parents to just let their kids be who they are. That’s what they need more than anything else.” I couldn’t say it better myself.
Need a Tic Coach?
If you are reading this, and need to talk to a parent who has “been there, done that” don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me. I will talk to you via Zoom or phone, share my story, and help you walk this new path by your side. I’ll even throw in my book for free. Email me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com for a free 30 minute consultation!
Jessica’s Taco Choice
Being Tico-O Tuesday, I asked Jessica to describe what she’d eat on her taco should she ever join me and my fellow ticker for dinner.
“I’d like it on a corn tortilla (fried) with meat, cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, no salsa, guacamole and sour cream.” I was a bit unsure if her inner diva, Paula, would approve of such excess. But it turns out Jessica’s love of tacos trumps Paula’s princess ways.
May God grant you the ability to accept the tics you cannot change, have the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!
Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter